What I’ve Learned Along the Way
Last December my good friend, former teacher, valued colleague and all-around good guy Eddie Groover retired after a long and distinguished career serving Point University. With his retirement, I suddenly realized that no one currently serving Christ at Point University has been here longer than I have. I am the last person here who was hired by President James C. Redmon, who served as University president from 1955 to 1978. There are a few people here older than I am, but out of respect I won’t mention names. It makes me wish I were “almost 43” instead of “almost 63.”
People like Eddie Groover and I, along with some others who have been serving here for many years, have seen a lot of changes. The obvious ones – the expansion of our approach to education, the degree completion program for adults, the name change, and of course the move from East Point to West Point – have been well-documented. In my 38 years, I’ve served alongside five presidents, all of whom brought unique gifts and vision to that office. We wouldn’t be where we are today were it not for the great work of these leaders and those who served along with them.
But “sitting on the inside,” so to speak, I’ve learned a lot of things that aren’t always so well-documented. I want to use this opportunity to do a little documenting of important things in hopes that those who read this will be able to realize the way God is working at the University.
As is true in any church or organization, Point is populated by students who come from a wide range of places in life, and from different places in their spiritual journey. Somewhere in my office I have an official letter sent to students in 1968 – before I was even a student – from President Redmon. It cautioned students about behavior in ways that sound rather up-to-date. You could change the date and signature line, and it could be mailed to students today. What we all know – but sometimes seem to forget – is that Christian colleges are populated with students who face challenging issues in life. They always have been, and no doubt always will be.
So this isn’t Pollyanna arguing that Point University is perfect. If that was the case, I certainly couldn’t have a job here!
But, what I know about our students is this:
They have a deep and abiding interest in making the world a better place.
Obviously that isn’t true of every single student, but overall, I think you would find a pretty good group of young Christian adults here who, despite their struggles, are going to make a difference in the world around them. In 38 years of being around students here, I’ve got to say that despite the challenges of living out the Jesus story in our world, we have some fantastic young people that I am honored to be around.
So many Point students, both in the traditional program and in the Access program for adults, are purposeful about their careers. Unlike the “old days” when nearly everyone who enrolled at the University planned on a church vocation, we have students who want to be all sorts of things and who are committed to integrating faith and mission into their chosen careers. Just think of the expanding influence for the kingdom of God that simple fact implies.
We have students who are generous with their time and possessions.
From our athletic teams to student groups, Point students are generous when it comes to serving. For years in my Theological Foundations for the Christian Life class, I’ve been saying something like “service – at the cost of our own preferences and resources – is the surest sign of our love for Jesus.” In some ways this is a generational characteristic, and colleges like Point – as well as churches everywhere – will be foolish if they ignore it.
Modern day Point students aren’t nearly as afraid of the world as I was at their age.
They seem to get, in ways that previous generations might not have, the reminder of Jesus when He said His followers were “in the world, but not of the world.” But at the same time, they don’t see themselves as “blenders,” that is, they don’t want to be just another person doing what the world does. We all know, most clearly by our own life experiences, that “not separating” while “not blending” is complicated. Sometimes our students mess up on where that line is, and a part of our job as a Christ-centered university is to help them sort out what that means. But, before I’m too critical of that, I need to look more closely at the face I see in the mirror every morning.
All of this to simply say, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I know there’s nothing about me that deserves the opportunities I’ve had to serve God alongside of students Point University. For some people, the older they get, the more critical they get. That can even happen to people who love Jesus. The world climate in which we current live certainly can contribute to separation and the critical spirit such separation often produces.
So, if you think the world is nearly without hope – I’d like to invite you to come and hang out with some great young adults in our traditional program or with some great older adults in our Access program. The most important thing I’ve learned along the way when it comes to my job at Point – there is reason for hope! I haven’t asked him, but I think my friend Eddie Groover would agree!
Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Dean of the Chapel